May twenty-ninth was Nana’s birthday, an event our family celebrated every year on Memorial Day. As a child, I thought all the flags and buntings and occasional fire-crackers that boomed in the distance were for her. And even now, sitting at a picnic table, the sun on my face, the sound of song sparrows, and the taste of homemade salads make me think of her.
Born in 1886, she would have been one-hundred-twenty five on Sunday. Amazing numbers, and even more amazing that I write them. She wouldn’t be happy that I recorded her age, or even that I knew it. Her years were so secret that her second husband learned how old she was months after their marriage, and that by accident.
So how is that possible? My grandmother who had beautiful hands and a wonderful laugh and who was often in trouble with her three daughters. My grandmother who confided in me. My grandmother who is gone now for forty-six years.
I wrote about her in my memoir, DON’T TELL THE GIRLS, wrote about the things she did that made us both laugh, but would have horrified my mother and her sisters. But then Nana is in so many of my books, her words, her thoughts about life, I see her smiling over my computer when I write something I know would have pleased her.
Yesterday, my children and grandchildren sat around the picnic table with Jim and me. The sun was warm on our faces and I heard a song sparrow in our tulip tree. Only my oldest son Jim remembers Nana…a small memory of Nana reading POKEY LITTLE PUPPY to him.
But I remember her and I think she would have felt blessed that I tell my grandchildren about her. I think she would have been pleased that I write about her often. More, that all these years later, there’s still a blur of tears when I think of her. Maybe that’s just a little bit of the immortality we all seek.